#LRAuthorSpotlight #AuthorSpotlight #CelebratingAuthors

Late last year, I entered a giveaway and won a book from a new author – Marika Ray. I loved her energy that her books leave you with. They’re definitely sunshine reads that bring the heat, humor, and a happily ever after! She has several series that you’ll want to check out once you start reading her books. I’m so excited that her newest release – Home is Where You Park It – hit #1 best seller status and earned a coveted orange flag on Amazon!

I am so excited to share more about Marika, her books, and to give y’all a behind-the-scenes look at the author behind the books!

Hi Marika! Tell my readers a little about you and your author life.

I’m Marika Ray, currently residing in Florida. I published my first book in 2018 and instantly became addicted to writing/publishing! I’m married and I have 3 daughter, 2 of whom are grown. My baby is a junior in high school. Most of my time is spent writing, attending my daughter’s beach volleyball tournaments, coffee dates with friends, and my not-so-guilty-pleasure: reading at night!

Where do you draw inspiration for your stories or characters?

From news stories, people I know, people I meet at the gym (hilarious place to watch people and make up stories in my head as to who they are). My stories are usually a little wacky, hence my genre of small town RomCom. Sadly, a lot of the wacky stories have come from personal experience…or at least an exaggerated version. lol

Can you share the origin or initial spark that led to your first book?

Yes! My youngest daughter was a horrible sleeper when she was little so I started telling her stories at bedtime. Pretty soon the stories were long, multi-episode stories with a whole host of side characters. My daughter basically dared me to write it down and make it a book. That dare intrigued me. I’d written non-fiction articles before but never ventured into fiction. It took me six months but I wrote a really horrible first draft of a first book and I haven’t looked back since! PS-I dedicated that first book to my youngest. ; )

How do you develop your plotlines and characters? Do you outline extensively or are you a pantster?

I’m a plotter for sure!! If I don’t, I just stare at a blank page and get intimidated! I like to outline the first third of the book, along with lengthy character sheets that delve into their background, family history, and personality. Once I have all that done, then I can start writing.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

Get my kiddo off to school, hit the gym, then sit down at my computer to write one chapter. Break for lunch. Then I’m back at my computer either writing a chapter in a different book or trying to complete the ten thousand administrative things on my to-do list. I’ll break again when my kiddo is home from school, then spend any additional time that day working on my facebook ads or posting Tiktoks (ie: marketing).

Are there any specific rituals or habits that aid your writing process?

I don’t have anything specific except that I can’t have anyone in the room with me while I’m writing. Or music. I need silence so I can immerse myself in the story and not worry about someone reading the screen over my shoulder. Oh, and coffee. I need lots and lots of coffee.

Totally get the lots of coffee need! What techniques do you use to create relatable and multifaceted characters?

I’m a huge fan of using the Enneagram types to get to know my characters. I typically have 4-5 pages of notes about each character before I start writing, along with research on their Enneagram type. To me, that’s even more important than an outline. I have to have a feel for each character before I start to write. What makes them tick, what are their fears, what makes them angry, family history, dating background. All of it. Once they feel like an actual friend in my life, then I can write their story.

Very detailed – I love that approach! Which authors or books have significantly influenced your writing style or storytelling?

Oh gosh. A ton! Off the top of my head, Penny Reid, Pippa Grant, Lucy Score, Claire Kingsley, Carrie Elks…

All fantastic authors! Are there particular genres or authors you enjoy reading for pleasure?

I love reading RomComs and small town romances. But I also like to read fantasies like Fourth Wing in between. I’ve recently gotten into listening to audiobooks too, which I didn’t used to like.

What themes or messages do you aim to convey through your books?

I love a good found family theme. Whether it’s a group of women who all band together to support each other or a group of men. I’ve written both and I loved seeing how friendships work when there’s love and support.

What are the most challenging aspects of writing a book and/or series?

Oh man. For the series, it’s creating a series bible while I’m writing instead of trying to tackle it after. After means I have to look up all these details (eye color, car driven, age, etc) from one book to the next. Maybe one day I’ll start the series bible with book 1 and keep it updated as I go along. I won’t hold my breath though…

Could you share a particularly rewarding moment or experience during the creation of your books?

For me, it’s always getting reader feedback. I’ve had people who cried with one of my epilogues. I’ve had people reach out and say that a particular character’s journey in my book was healing to them personally. I get a deep sense of knowing this career was what I was meant to do when I can connect emotionally with perfect strangers who become friends.

Can you provide any hints or insights into your upcoming projects or books in the pipeline?

Sure! I have more ideas than I have time, so we’ll see how much of this comes true. lol I want to do a 3 book series of silver fox brothers who all want a second chance at love. I’d like to write a standalone book set in my current town. I’d like to attempt another standalone holiday romance, as my last one was so fun to write. And of course, I can’t forget my hockey/menopause series with my co-author Sylvie Stewart. And then a reader friend just gave me the idea of doing a second generation series, which piqued my interest too.

Are there any genres or themes you’d like to explore in your future writing?

Well, I’ve already dabbled in alien romance and even an urban fantasy so I’d bet good money I’ll skip to another genre at some point in the future. lol Nothing in the very near future though.

How can readers connect with you?

I’ve got my Marika Ray’s of Sunshine reader group on Facebook where I’m active and my email is marika@marikaray.com

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Thank you for sharing your magic with us, Marika! I’m looking forward to your work in 2024 and beyond!